family
Siblings

Siblings. I don’t remember if we have ever been close. We’re all in our late forties and early fifties. Some years, we’ve hardly tolerated one another. For what reason? The birth order? The first of four, I was the bossy one and resented having to watch the three of them. To me growing up, my little sister was a whining princess who had dodged curfews and chores while I did them all. She had complained she resented going through school being compared to me, so she rebelled. When I graduated high school and joined the Navy, I rarely thought about her. We just parted ways. The same can be said for my brothers. I was the tomboy who didn’t want dolls. I climbed trees, shot marbles, rode my bike everywhere, sharpened swords from tree branches and defended my fort. When I left home for good, all I felt was good riddance. No one wrote me letters or called. Neither did I.

My siblings and Mom. I'm the one wearing the scarf.
I’m the one wearing the scarf.

As time passed, we took turns and married, had kids, and divorced. There was the occasional snappy remark instilling resentment or the full-frontal, verbal attack which fostered hatred. Personal friends became my sisters. My brothers had their own adventures and weren’t prone to discussing their feelings or sharing their goals or troubles. It was none of my business. As adults, we gathered at Mom’s house for the holiday get-together and were cautioned to “be civil or leave.” As I’ve grown older, it bothers me we aren’t close. But how do you change life long perceptions or soften a hard wood?

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Of the four of us, we would all agree my brother in the front seat next to the oranges and my sister standing behind him have never seen eye-to-eye. The other day when we tried to bond, she confessed she felt compelled to find the one toy my brother was obsessed with as a boy and surprise him.

For twenty years, my sister has looked to find them. We all remember my brother sticking his tortured pirates with pins and the sound effects he would make. How ironic that she found them on E-Bay and paid a hefty price for these plastic guys that were once bought with a quarter from a five-and-dime forty years ago.

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Wouldn’t you know, my brother laughed and teared up with joy when he saw them? He stood up and gave my sister a hug and thanked her with great sincerity. We all started tearing up. How ironic that his least favorite sibling was the one who made the effort to please him. If those two could get along, maybe hard wood can soften. Maybe there’s still time for relaxed conversations. For compassion. For laughter. Maybe!

43 thoughts on “Googly Men

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  1. Damn, Cindy. You triggered my waterworks… with words, no less 😉 Actually, sometimes it is hard to talk with siblings. A simple gesture that may mean nothing to others can mean so much to one. The idea that your brother probably gave up and probably forgot about childhood joy parallels beautifully with the setup up forgetting one another only to be found. This pseudo-parable is a great reminder that it’s never too late for thst 1st step. Thanks for sharing this story and setting it up (structurally) so well. Good orchestration. I hope your storytelling endeavors away from the site are doing well. Good luck.

    1. Dan, I appreciate your editorial critique! I’ve been writing the book and have written a couple chapters. I’m on spring break from school so had some time to play with the blog a bit. I will have time to juggle both until Monday! I wish, wish, wish it was my day job. Cheers, my friend.

    1. Pictures do that for me. I recently found a box of pictures I took and hadn’t seen in decades. What a way to travel back in time. It’s pure therapy revisiting the past and realizing how far one comes.

  2. I suppose that I was lucky. An only child, I never missed having any siblings at all. In fact, I felt glad to not have any, when I saw the bickering and resentment in some of my family, or at the homes of friends. As I got older, that situation didn’t seem to get any better. They argued about being responsible for elderly parents; who did this, who did that. It seemed worse for the women, destined to be ‘natural carers’, as their brothers were excused excesses and absences with the old saying, “That’s men for you.”
    I have got to a relatively old age knowing nothing about what it is to have a brother or sister, and understanding it less than I ever did. I hope that things improve for your situation. No doubt a time will come when you all need each other, probably when you least expect it.
    I am very glad that the school holidays gave you time to come back to blogging. This was a very honest and emotional piece. It can’t have been easy to write, and was all the better for that knowledge.
    Best wishes, as always. Pete.

    1. You are kind, Pete. School holidays are a blessing to regroup and recharge. One last push and summer vacation will be here before I know it. I hope to complete the novel by the end of the summer. That’s the plan. I’m going to try and squeeze in a post here and there when inspired.

  3. This is a really nice piece Cindy, I hope your siblings know about it. My sister lives on the other of the world and my brother is now heavily involved with his Church. I do wonder sometimes how close we are to estrangement. We still see each other for regular family gatherings but we’re no longer having real conversations just endlessly debating politics or popular culture. Things have been said and I don’t feel as close to them as I would like. I’ve heard often in the later years old anger cools, resentments become irrelevant and as social circles dwindle, old family members get brought back into the fold. I don’t know if that is a great comfort given how young you are for srarters and secondly that it takes death being around the corner to make people value what is truly important in life but maybe all it takes is some little plastic men before it has to get to that.

    1. Lloyd, I have been trying to create social instances for bonding to avoid the usual politics and family thorny topics. Baseball games are good for that. It’s hard when we are all spread out as you’ve said.I am young. Still 17 inside. 🙂 Good luck with your siblings.

  4. This is a really nice piece Cindy, I hope your siblings know about it. My sister lives on the other of the world and my brother is now heavily involved with his Church. I do wonder sometimes how close we are to estrangement. We still see each other for regular family gatherings but we’re no longer having real conversations just endlessly debating politics or popular culture. Things have been said and I don’t feel as close to them as I would like. I’ve heard often in the later years old anger cools, resentments become irrelevant and as social circles dwindle, old family members get brought back into the fold. I don’t know if that is a great comfort given how young you are for starters and secondly that it takes death being around the corner to make people value what is truly important in life but maybe all it takes is some little plastic men before it has to get to that.

  5. That is so sad, but unfortunately true! The three of us in my family bonded well growing up and today, but not so the next generation. I suppose we are all born with different personalities and sometimes the mix just does not mix.

  6. Aawwww, what a great reunion story! Sounds like you had a lovely time, Cindy. I only have one sibling now, half of my twin brother, but since he’s thousands of miles away in Jakarta we keep in touch using text messages/emails 🙂

    1. I’m glad you have a good relationship with him. Emailing, texting and Skyping–what marvelous inventions that have when you are trying to maintain a relationship. Thanks, Ruth.

      1. Oh yeah, we grew up together and got along well, and he’s the only family I have left now. He’s got three daughters so they keep him quite busy 🙂

      1. I have one brother who is two and a half years younger than me. We are close, yet do squabble as most siblings do. One thing is for certain, we are always there for each other.

  7. My brother and I have gone through phases. We were murderous towards each other until our late teens where we became inseparable all the way through our twenties. In recent years I fear we have become strangers. We live in different countries, his job is extremely demanding and he doesn’t prioritise communication. The last time I visited he agreed to take no more than a half a day off to see me and then he spent most of that time on the phone… to work. I miss him and how we used to be a lot.

    1. It’s sad when you reach out but it’s not reciprocated. I remind myself that relationships are chapters. I do know that nothing stays the same. In time, even disparate lives and personalities can reconnect.

      1. I’m fortunate that my brother’s partner makes a huge effort with our whole family so even if he tells me nothing I manage to keep some connection through her without whom I think he’d be completely lost.

  8. Like most of the comments above this post also resonated with me. I think the problem is that we tend to judge family members the same way we judge friends and when we do that we realize that, in most cases, we would never be friends with our family members. But unlike friends, nobody can replace family members so they are infinitely precious. Trying to heal decades of hurt and resentment between family members is too formidable a task for most of us unless you have oodles of time and money for therapy. I think repression is a good comprise, just shovel the emotional baggage into a corner and try to move on.

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